Oh yes, the end of another year means time to start planning for the next 12 months. Do you view your farm in the same way as you view your personal goals and resolutions? Taking a step back from day-to-day concerns to view the bigger picture can help you develop a better sense of scope and direction for your hobby herd. Here are some things you might want to consider as we all make our way into 2019.
1. Identify Broad Farm Goals
What is the overall goal for your farm? Maybe it’s to increase production—such as more hives and more honey, more lambs, bigger steers or more eggs. Or, maybe you want to try something new and challenge yourself? Enter some contests, perhaps? Try to raise a new breed of hog—or any hogs at all? See what it’s like to shear a sheep? Make goat cheese?
What about boosting your signal? Do you want more visibility on social media? Do you want to engage in the community and educate? Be a spokesperson for small-time farming in your area? Become more eco-friendly? Live off the land a bit more and be more self-sufficient? Maybe just have more fun?
Dream big and brainstorm. The world’s your oyster. (Speaking of that: Ever considered oyster farming?) Don’t hold back.
2. Narrow Down Specific Parts
Once you’ve set farm goals, how will you get there? Many people realize after a few failed attempts at making (and keeping) new year’s resolutions that the more abstract a goal, the harder it is to keep—or even know when you’ve reached it. There is a way to bring your lofty ideas into reality: Break them down into practical, manageable bites. For example, take “increase production” and break it into: “invest in three bred Angus-cross heifers” to boost the genetic line of your small cattle herd. This step takes you from the what to the how. Some folks like to think of this in terms of the acronym SMART goals: specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Next, dose yourself with a spoonful of reality. Yes, that ram down the road would do wonders for your sheep flock, but how many bred ewes can you handle on your property with the help you have? This is where you honestly assess your time, your abilities and your budget. This step will help you hone your goals further.
3. Make a Schedule & Tell Others
Next up: Get a calendar. Yes, yes, those smart phones have all sorts of nifty apps and doodads for reminding you and pinging you but nothing beats a good, old-fashioned wall calendar hung in your barn to start implementing the when. Things such as breeding dates, estrus cycles, health checks, vaccinations and show dates all need to go somewhere, right? Why not make them visible where you can see them daily?
Next, tell people about your goals. This is a fun step but it also helps keep you accountable. The more people know, the more they’re apt to ask about your progress, and you don’t want to disappoint, right? This step has a double advantage as it might even elicit more helping hands and interest, sort of like a positive feedback loop.
And now: Think ahead. You’ve got friends, family and other community members whom you might need to draw on for advice and help. Don’t forget to ask questions as your farm and your skills grow and develop. You never know when someone has just the tip to help you out. This helps build working relationships that can last a lifetime.